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Marketing Vegetables in School Cafeteria Yields Dramatic Results

Marketing Vegetables in School Cafeteria Yields Dramatic Results

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A study in  Pediatrics suggests that marketing tactics, often blamed for popularizing nutritionally poor foods among U.S. children, also can lead more kids to select vegetables at lunchtime.

Researchers for the study, “Marketing Vegetables in Elementary School Cafeterias to Increase Uptake”tallied the number of students who took fresh vegetables from the salad bar at 10 elementary school cafeterias in a large, urban school district over a six-week period.

Vinyl Banners with branded, cartoon vegetable characters displaying “super human” strength were wrapped around the base of the salad bars at one group of schools. At others schools, short television segments with nutrition education delivered by the vegetable characters were shown. A third group of schools in the study received both the salad-bar banners and the television segments, and a control group received no intervention. In all of the intervention schools, decals with the vegetable characters were placed on the floor directing traffic to the salad bars.

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Results showed nearly twice as many students took vegetables from the salad bar when exposed to the banners. More than three times as many students exposed to both the banners and television segments visited the salad bar for vegetables, although the extra increase from combined exposure was mostly among girls; boys were most responsive to the banners. The marketing campaign also increased servings of vegetables chosen in the regular lunch line.

Amid calls by some advocacy groups to ban all advertising aimed at children, study authors said, their findings highlight potential opportunities to leverage marketing strategies in a positive way by using branded media to promote healthier food choices among children.

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